Diehl Metering, part of the Diehl Group since 2010, specializes in smart metering, supplying the entire process chain from metering to invoicing. With over 2000 employees, Diehl Metering produces more than 7 million meters and 4.6 million radio modules per annum internationally for water, thermal energy, gas & power, system technology in addition to smart metering.
With units working independently across Europe, America and Asia, using different sales processes, Diehl Metering’s reporting has been, until now, managed independently by region. Subsequently, this led to a number of inconsistencies such as differing currencies, languages and levels of detail to consolidate for reporting and comparative analysis. The existing reporting solution, based on SAP BW, was found to be too reliant upon IT involvement and impractical for the flexibility needed for the regional requirements. Consequently, the process became increasingly complex to portray an accurate overview of the whole organisation’s performance.
Diehl Metering wanted to find a solution that could map all the Diehl sub-group's sales planning and reporting in one tool - allowing for local requirements and peculiarities. Diehl’s second objective was for key users in specialist departments to have the self-sufficiency to make small changes to the application themselves and for users to be able to adapt their reports to their own requirements using simple self-service functions.
After evaluating a number of different tools, including QlikView, Cubeware and SAP BO, Diehl Metering opted for the programming-free toolkit; Board. Aside from impressive technical features, such as integrating analysis, reporting, simulation and planning in a single tool, a distinctive user orientation and comprehensive planning functionalities; the local Board consultants who were to actively support the project over the coming months were also considered winning factors as a part of the selection process.
The implementation team (Diehl staff, Board consultants and the IT management consultancy company, Noventum Consulting), were faced with a unique challenge with the reporting application. Until now there had not been a uniform key performance indicators logic or detailed documentation for this. With the new solution, Diehl Metering has set itself a clear goal: "Our KPI logic should be clearly structured and documented from now on. The option of a graphic representation of the key performance indicators was another significant challenge here. We hoped for more transparency for the whole sub-group by using the new BI solution and above all the option to be able to make changes ourselves," explained Marc Kellner, Head of Process Management & Business Applications at Diehl Metering The basis created by Board partner, Noventum Consulting, is an MS SQL server-based data warehouse with which the original SAP BW data management system was to be replaced in the medium term. Standardized SAP interfaces by Theobald Software and SQL Server Integration Services are used for managing data from the SAP ERP system. Incoming orders, sales and the resulting orders were implemented in the first step as they are the most important indicators for sales control. A daily update of the Board database ensures that sales data is up-to-date at all times. "Because of the clear hierarchies in Board we were even able to identify and correct inaccurate master data from SAP," explained Nadine Volkart, IT project manager in the Process Management & Business Applications Division at Diehl Metering.
For sales planning, the Diehl Metering company, together with Board consultants, first of all developed a uniform sales planning process that was to be mapped in Board. Here, the underlying data model allows for country or company-specific requirements so that each company unit can be fitted into it. During a coaching procedure future key users were heavily involved in creating applications during the implementation phase so that the first parts of the application were created by Diehl Metering itself.
After only six months the first four company units (two sites in Germany, France and Austria) were linked to the new, central planning system and the first planning process could be performed with Board. Whether at individual customer or customer group level, the system consolidates international data immediately and prepares an overview of the whole Diehl Metering division. A workflow function with integrated approval processes supports international collaboration.
Once a year Diehl Metering plans quantity and price based on 25,000 customers and 100,000 materials. A five year planning period is set for this. A particular challenge is the different start dates for planning across the company units, which each take their corresponding previous year's figures as a basis. Board generates suggested values from the rolling 12 sales figures which automatically allow for seasonal fluctuations. For new materials which have not yet been created in SAP, there is the option to plan with virtual materials. When these products are introduced onto the market, the planned values of the hitherto virtual products can be transferred to the material now created in SAP with a click of the mouse. "A particular feature is intercompany planning with our production site in Nuremberg, which acts practically exclusively as an internal sub-group supplier," explained Nadine Volkart. "Its sales planning represents at the same time the planning for internal material procurement for all other affiliated companies. In Board we have resolved this interconnection by internal customers of our Nuremberg site recording their material procurement planning. This is automatically adopted as sales planning for the manufacturing site. Manual intervention is, of course, possible at any time." The next step is the rollout of the Board toolkit to the other company units. Existing reports and masks are used as a template for this and must only be slightly adapted depending on local requirements.
Other specialist departments from the sub-group have already announced ideas for new application areas for Board, e.g. HR reporting and a supply chain management solution are required. The already running implementation of clear dashboards and reports with individual drill and self-service functions are awaited with great interest by the future users.
The balancing act between international standardization of the sales planning processes taking into consideration local requirements has been successfully mastered with Board. For the first time, there are transparent processes beyond country borders.
Thanks to the integration of planning and analysis in a single tool, evaluations are possible directly from planning - a considerable reduction in work and an increase in efficiency for all users. This bears no comparison with previous Excel-orientated solutions, where in-depth analyses were not at all possible or were very rigid.
Thanks to the flexible, multi-dimensional Board database, even the very different attributes of the individual company units could be mapped in a single data model. Thus Diehl Metering is achieving transparency over the whole sub-group and a single version of truth.